Editor Emma Ballard believes it's time we open up discussions around transgender golfers, as transwoman pro golfer Hailey Davidson hits the headlines again

It’s been nearly 18 months since Hailey Davidson hit the headlines when they made a bid to secure an LPGA Tour card. Last week, after winning the NXXT Women’s Classic at Mission Inn Resort & Club in Florida, the aspiring pro found themselves at the centre of a media frenzy.

Over the last 18 months, the debate around transgender inclusion in all women’s sports has escalated, with more people and organisations taking a stronger stance on making sure that all women and girls have a safe place and opportunity to compete against other female born women and girls.

The NXXT Women’s Pro Tour, is a series of professional events for women spanning the off season of the LPGA from late Autumn to early Spring, where players can earn places on the Epson Tour, the feeder tour to the LPGA.

It is worth noting that regardless of our personal feelings surrounding Davidson competing in competitions with women, the player is playing within guidelines that have been set by the LPGA and USGA.

The NXXT Women's Pro Tour Statement

The NXXT Women’s Pro Tour released a statement after the social media backlash:

“The recent discussions surrounding Hailey Davidson’s participation and success on our tour have highlighted a range of viewpoints. The NXXT Women’s Pro Tour acknowledges these perspectives while emphasizing that our policies and decisions are guided by the frameworks set by the LPGA and USGA. Our primary focus remains on supporting our players' aspirations and contributing to their journey towards the LPGA.

“Recognizing the spectrum of views on this issue, we wish to highlight that our decisions are guided by what is best for our players, setting aside personal beliefs. Part of our commitment is ensuring an environment that is inclusive and safe for all members. In light of recent events, we have initiated a poll among our tour players to gather their opinions on our gender policy. We believe it is vital to consider the perspectives of those directly affected by these policies.

“Furthermore, in maintaining the integrity of our standards, we have requested Hailey Davidson to undergo additional testosterone testing to ensure compliance with the appropriate guidelines.

“We understand that this topic evokes strong feelings and diverse viewpoints. We encourage constructive dialogue and respect for all athletes who strive to compete at the highest levels of their sport.”

Golf media and women's golf

This is definitely a debate that golf needs to have at all levels of the game but I have been left disappointed by how this has been handled in particular by golf media outlets.

The reporting on Davidson’s victory was not done to encourage discussion, it was done for clickthroughs and social media interaction. When you write about a topic as sensitive as this, you are going to get a huge amount of social media comments, mostly unpleasant and unhelpful, some abusive but who cares when the aim is to increase your social media metrics and website hits?

I say this because if women’s golf really was a concern for these outlets, then they would always be reporting on women’s golf. But this is not always the case. Take this instance which occurred the same weekend as Lydia Ko took a step closer LPGA Hall of Fame status. Whilst columns filled with a 20-year-old amateur winning on the PGA Tour and McIlroy making in four Dubai Desert Classic wins, there was no place for Ko… but there was a place for a transgender woman golfer.

It makes me so angry that a potentially serious threat to women’s golf is leveraged for clickbait and vitriol. It shows all that is wrong with the way that women’s golf is covered and the work that needs to be done within the golf media space for women pro golfers to get the respect and coverage that they deserve.

I digress ever so slightly but I wanted to highlight that this sort of reporting does more harm than good for women’s golf. By all means, engage your readers in the debate but don’t just drop a bombshell and walk away from it.

Fair Play For Women report

With that in mind, this really is a women’s golf issue that needs to be looked into and discussed further. We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand and assume that the powers that be at the top of the game are going to get this sorted in a satisfactory manner for everyone at all levels of the game.

Earlier this month, Fair Play For Women, a campaigning and consultancy group which raises awareness, provides evidence and analysis, and supports policy-makers to protect the rights of women and girls in the UK, released a report: How trans inclusion in sport is harming women and girls.

The report has given women a voice, using personal reports from across 35 sports in the UK and compiling around 50 personal testimonies representing 25 sports.

What needs to be understood is that cases like Davidson are not isolated and it is not just at elite level.

Here is a testimony relating to golf:

“Initially, the women’s section at the golf club were welcoming to a trans-identifying male for recreational play but no one was playing any competitions because they felt it was unfair. Several women left the club and the entire committee of the ladies’ section resigned due to threats from [6’2” trans-identifying male golfer] it’s likely the ladies section will be dissolved.”

It almost seems unbelievable that a whole women’s section could disappear due to one individual.

Should transgender women compete in women's golf

Personally, I do not believe that transgender women should be competing against women in any women's only sports category. As a mother of two daughters, I have seen first hand the physical advantages that even pre-pubescent boys have over girls. I also have a younger brother, who was stronger and faster than me from an early age. I do not think I need to go into huge detail here but for those interested, Women in Sport have insights into trans inclusion and women’s sport.

This is not about banning people from competing or excluding anyone from a sport that they love. As I have said previously and as you probably already know, golf is one of the only sports that can pride itself on being fully inclusive.

Eighteen months ago, the talk about transwomen in women’s golf died down almost as soon as it started. It’s time to stop using Davidson as a scapegoat and spokesperson when they are only playing by the rules that have been set.

We need to open up discussions, be given guidance and support from governing bodies and professional organisations and ultimately find a way to make this work so it is fair for every golfer, at every level of the game.

What are your thoughts on transwomen competing in women's golf - at club and/or professional level? Drop me your thoughts [email protected]